Think about the big changes that have happened during my adult lifetime (I’m 59). With the notable exceptions of getting into four wars, we, not the politicians, were responsible for creating the big changes. It took FOUR YEARS of demonstrations to get us out of Vietnam. About the same for civil rights. Do you remember how many politicians were championing the cause of women’s rights or standing up against arguably our only modern-day epidemic (AIDS)? Your guy or my guy didn’t make those things happen. People like you and me did. Actually, the vast majority of those in power fought those changes tooth and nail.
And this is NOT about the private sector versus government. This is an acknowledgement of how change takes place in this country historically. It’s up to us, not them.
So, What to Do Now?
First, get the facts. Someone once said if you lead with your ideology the facts are the first casualties. Put your ideology aside and consider the following-
Listen to both sides. Listen for tone. For each race you are concerned about, go to each side’s website and give them your name and email. Then listen as they send you emails. Don’t listen hard, the campaigns are NOT the place for information (I’ll get to that in a minute). Listen for tone, it comes out pretty fast. Is that someone you want to “hire?”
Stop accepting their bullshit and Google it. You are five minutes away from fact checking anything. Try it. Google: Obamacare cost; Romney jobs plan; deficit comparison presidents; Obama “you didn’t build that”. Know that both sides are good at getting ranked well on Google, so expect to hit a couple sites per topic. After a bit of practice you’ll start to see how easy it is to separate what is from what isn’t. If you want to take your game to the next level Google “Obama stump speech transcript” or “Romney stump speech transcript.” Reading their words is revealing — sometimes astonishing. And, unfortunately, I mean astonishing in a bad way.
Stop watching the news media. Their job is to sell audiences to advertisers and have therefore become a controversy machine, not a reality machine. They are not bad people, they simply aren’t a very good source for facts anymore.
But you need news, right? Buy an iPad or Android tablet and start using a free app called Flipboard (Kite will do the same thing). And yes, I said buy a tablet. It’s just the fate of the modern freaking world in the balance for Pete’s sake; buy one! Plus, you can watch all those cool YouTube cat videos to boot! Flipboard and apps like it aggregate feeds from sources you select. Sit on the couch with your tablet, not your TV, and you can see ALL sides. Commercial-free! For example, on one screen of my tablet I have feeds from BBC News, The Economist, Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, Al Jazeera, Twitter and Facebook. When one cable TV pundit is getting all purple-faced about something I see the topic from several sides in just a few taps.
Start thinking and talking about problems and solutions. Not about vilifying a particular politician. Screeching about Nancy Peloci and Harry Reid or John Boehner and Eric Cantor has become good sport but it accomplishes nothing. Each pair has been saddled with parroting their side’s party line. Feel sorry for their soul-destroying plight and move on.
Then start faxing your Congress members or the President or the candidate you support. Don’t email. They filter emails looking for keywords with the goal of keeping score (100 for “keyword,” 150 against “keyword”). A fax is something a person has to pull from a machine and read, or at least scan for those keywords.
We need to stop accepting the tortured logic manufactured in focus groups and turned into sound bites by assholes from both sides. If we call them on it, if we stop buying their crap, they will stop. These are smart people. But, increasingly, their goals are more about ratings and staying in office than reporting the facts and solving problems. And you would think that if there was a time to put your job security aside and worry about reporting facts and solving problems it would be during the largest financial meltdown in the history of this country. Apparently I’m wrong about that. So, it’s up to us, you and me. But then, I suppose it’s always been that way. . .